Archive for the 'Funding News' Category

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War on Science: Canada

While Political Science has had its major funding source cut for the remainder of this fiscal year [see synopsis] and Congressional Republicans want to tinker with the American Community Survey (ACS) or completely cut its funding [see synopsis], Canada’s experience with governmental interference into scientific research is more drastic. The trend has been to fund “applied” research – sort of like funding MRI machines and not the science that developed the technology. Likewise, government scientists and even librarians are muzzled – not able to speak to the press without clearance.

Some of this has been covered in Nature and Science Insider, but most of the details require reading some Canadian news.

[Muzzling Scientists]
Harper government’s muzzling of scientists a mark of shame for Canada
Jeffrey Hutchins | thestar.coom
March 15, 2013
Notable Quotations
Since 2006 the federal government has been shortening the leash on its scientists. In some departments researchers are now not allowed to speak about their studies without ministerial (meaning political) permission. And in several documented instances that permission has been refused. In February, Fisheries and Oceans Canada raised additional non-science barriers to the publication of scientific research.

Let’s be clear. When you inhibit the communication of science, you inhibit science. The legitimacy of scientific findings depends crucially on unfettered engagement, review, and discussion among interested individuals, including members of the public.

Refreshingly, a Scandinavian with impeccable credentials provides an enlightened perspective. Gro Harlem Brundtland, three times Prime Minister of Norway and chair of the renowned Brundtland Commission on sustainable development, argues that:

“If we compromise on scientific facts and evidence, repairing nature will be enormously costly – if possible at all. Politics that disregard science and knowledge will not stand the test of time.”
If politics that diminish and devalue science should not stand the test of time, then neither should politically motivated barriers to the communication of science.

The Canadian government’s current communication controls are clearly not the hallmark of a confident, mature, and progressive society. We can and should do much, much better.

[Political Interference]
Canada puts commercialization ahead of blue-sky research
Brian Owens | Nature
March 22, 2013
Notable Quotations
But the government’s relentless focus on business innovation does not represent a coherent science strategy, says Paul Dufour, director of Paulicy Works, a science-and-technology consultancy in Gatineau, Quebec. He notes that the budget makes no reference to a national science-and-technology strategy that Harper released in 2007. “We have to assume that it’s dead, and that the government has no strategy,” Dufour says.

Instead, Dufour says, there is a piecemeal approach, with the government “picking winners” and providing new money to the automotive, aerospace, forestry and aquaculture sectors. “It’s very short-term thinking,” he says.

Canadian Budget Targets Industrial Applications
Wayne Kondro | Science Insider
March 22, 2013
Notable Quotations
The new budget promises stiffer competition for a smaller pool of research grants. What little new money is made available will again be funneled into targeted “industry-academic” partnerships.

Program after program [within the councils] is becoming company specific,” he says. “This is all money that’s being squeezed out of what should be going for discovery research. Previous budgets had signaled a shift of priorities from basic research to various collaborations with industry. This budget confirms that.”

The budget reaffirms plans by Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear to revamp the National Research Council, the government’s primary in-house research arm. The goal is to create a “concierge” service that provides one-stop shopping and solutions for industrial needs

The Canadian war on public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information
John Dupuis | Science Blogs
March 22, 2013
This blog entry provides a synopsis of a resolution voted on by the Canadian Parliament:

That, in the opinion of the House: (a) public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information are essential to evidence-based policy-making; (b) federal government scientists must be enabled to discuss openly their findings with their colleagues and the public; and (c) the federal government should maintain support for its basic scientific capacity across Canada, including immediately extending funding, until a new operator is found, to the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility to pursue its unique research program.

Which was defeated 157 to 137 – every conservative voted Nay, including Prime Minister Harper.

Closure of Experimental Lakes Area part of assault on science
Stephen Scharper | the
March 29, 2013
Notable Quotations
Last May, scientists were told that the federal government intended to stop funding the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) research facility, a site encompassing 58 lakes which, for more than 40 years, has provided cutting-edge findings on myriad ecological issues, including phosphate and mercury pollution, acid rain and aquatic effects of climate change. They were also told, according to some sources, not to talk about it with the media or other colleagues.

The government claims the move will save $2 million annually, and says it is willing to allow another operator to take over. As of now, no alternative agency has come forward to assume operation of the facility.

According to Cynthia Gilmour, senior scientist with the Smithsonian Institution, the ELA is “the only place in the world” where you can do controlled experiments within a lake ecosystem.

Research and Politics

The field of Political Science has been hit hard by an amendment to the Continuing Approriations Act of 2013, which pretty much axes the NSF political science funding mechanism. The money remains with NSF rather than being shifted to the National Cancer Institute and political science research can still be funded, but only if their research is useful for “national security” or “the economic interests” of the United States.

This amendment only applies until the end of this fiscal year, but NSF funding for political science has been on Tom Coburn’s radar for years. Expect more of the same and perhaps even for the rest of the softer sciences.

The links are in presented in order of publication – oldest first:

First, the prequel
New Attempt to Cut NSF Funding for Political Science
March 15, 2013

NSF’s political science program siphons valuable resources away from higher priority research that will yield greater applied benefits and potential to stir further innovation. This amendment does not aim to hinder science, but rather to allocate more support for research that will save lives.
Tom Coburn’s Fact Sheet

The amendment sets up a false dichotomy between medical research and research in
the social sciences that we emphatically reject
Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the Association of American Universities

Senate Delivers a Devastating Blow to the Integrity of the Scientific Process at the National Science Foundation
March 20, 2013
Notable Quotes
Adoption of this amendment is a gross intrusion into the widely-respected, independent scholarly agenda setting process at NSF that has supported our world-class national science enterprise for over sixty years.

The amendment creates an exceptionally dangerous slippery slope. While political science research is most immediately affected, at risk is any and all research in any and all disciplines funded by the NSF. The amendment makes all scientific research vulnerable to the whims of political pressure.

Adoption of this amendment demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of the breadth and importance of political science research for the national interest and its integral place on the nation’s interdisciplinary scientific research agenda.

Singling out any one field of science is short-sighted and misguided, and poses a serious threat to the independence and integrity of the National Science Foundation.

And shackling political science within the national science agenda is a remarkable embarrassment for the world’s exemplary democracy.

Money for Military, Not Poli Sci
Libbie A. Nelson | Inside Higher Education
March 21, 2013
Notable Quotes
The amendment defunding political science was adopted in a voice vote that surprised many observers. Ending federal funding for political science research has been a longtime cause for some Republicans in Congress, including the measure’s sponsor, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, and the effort has failed many times in the past.

Senate Moves to Limit NSF Spending on Political Science
Paul Basken | Chronicle of Higher Education
March 21, 2013
Notable Quotes
The amendment was proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican of Oklahoma who has sharply criticized the foundation’s spending priorities.

Mr. Coburn sent a letter last week to the NSF’s director, Subra Suresh, listing a series of agency-financed projects he considered a waste of taxpayer money. His list included several involving political science, including studies of voter attitudes toward the Senate filibuster and of the cooperation between the president and Congress.

Projects likely to be affected, he said, include the American National Election Studies, a landmark series of studies and polls dating to 1948. Its current principal investigators are at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Stanford University.

Political Science Research: Singled Out
R.D.N. | The Economist
March 21, 2013

Tom Coburn Doesn’t Like Political Science
Henry Farrell | Chronicle of Higher Education
March 22, 2013
Notable Quotes
The NSF pays for 61 percent of basic research in the social sciences. Publicly supported academic research is, and should be, democratically accountable. Yet politicians have wisely delegated the particulars of funding lines to the scientific community. Politicians are not scientists, and do not have the expertise to judge which research areas and questions are promising and which are not.

The Coburn amendment changes that. It imposes crude political criteria on scientific grant making, arbitrarily decreeing that social scientists cannot get funds for studying key aspects of politics. It is clear that Coburn’s ambitions stretch far beyond the social sciences. In previous reports he has attacked the NSF for purportedly useless research in robotics, biology, and other areas of the natural sciences.

If this precedent is not reversed, it will probably be expanded in unhappy ways. Politicians will attach ever-more-onerous conditions to NSF funds, in order to make sure that research they like gets money, while research that they dislike does not. Politicians should not micromanage the grant-making process. They are likely to not only misunderstand the science but use their influence to mischaracterize good research in attempts to score political points.

In the worst-case scenario, Coburn’s amendment could also set a dangerous precedent for academic research in general. Introducing political micromanagement into a system that should be governed by scientific criteria would essentially politicize science. The NSF finances important research in politically controversial areas such as climate science, biology, and evolutionary science. To date, the NSF has been able to shield grant-making decisions in those areas from broader political acrimony. Politicians who deny global warming and evolution have not wanted to seem overtly anti-science, and have refrained from direct attack.

That delicate balance may be upset, as it becomes more acceptable to interfere with the inner workings of decision making at the NSF. Research on global warming, evolution, and biology may become fair game. The Coburn amendment is a tragedy for both political science and public debate. Its broader legacy may be a tragedy for the basic process of scientific discovery, if it is not swiftly reversed. Tom Coburn may not like political science. It’s important to remember that many of his colleagues don’t like science at all.

What We Need to Know about the NSF Funding Vote
Seth Masket | Mischiefs of Faction Blog
March 26, 2013
This blog entry is mostly a call to action among political scientists. He starts out by commenting on some of the technical details of the legislation from his history as a Congressional staffer.

That Time Where Tom Coburn Didn’t Believe in Micro-Managing Scientific Research
John Sides | The Monkey Cage Blog
March 27, 2013
In this post, Sides finds a time when Tom Coburn argues against micromanaging scientific research:

Coburn told Nature Medicine that he will continue to oppose any disease-specific legislation because he doesn’t think Congress should micromanage the leaders of the NIH. “If you’re going to do a disease-specific bill, you ought to tell them what mass spectrometer to buy,” he quips.

Tom Coburn Flip-Flops on NSF Funding of Political Science Research
John Sides | The Monkey Cage Blog
December 20, 2011
This piece gives some nice examples of Coburn deriding political science research and then using some NSF-funded political science research to support a point he was making about the decline in Congressional oversight.

Update on Sequestration Cuts for Statistical Agencies

Sequestration Cuts’ Impact on Statistical Agencies
Steve Pierson | The Census Project Blog
February 19, 2014

This is up-to-date information on selected statistical agencies, primarily the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, at the end of the post are links to impacts on NIH and NSF.

An Exercise in Inefficiency: Sequestration/Threat of Sequestration

This is a collection of recent news articles on sequestration. For the most part, the articles concern NIH funding, although a few discuss all federal agencies. An earlier post links to a agency-by-agency cuts as well as UM-specific information.

Sequestration cuts no longer the ‘bad policy’ bogeyman for Congress
Jeremy Herb | The Hill
January 29, 2013
This news source focuses on Congress and the Federal government. It concludes “With the sequestration deadline a little over four weeks away, there appears to be little momentum in Congress or the White House to stop the cuts.”

Threats of automatic cuts costly to federal agencies
Lisa Rein |Washington Post
January 27, 2013

Paul Ryan Insists Republicans are ready to let the Sequester Happen
Suzy Khimm | Wonk Blog (Washington Post)
January 27, 2013

Ryan: No Sequestration had Romney and I Won
Pema Levy | Talking Points Memo
January 27, 2013

Sequestration means mass furloughs in April
Stephen Losey | Federal Times
January 25, 2013

NIH Director Francis Collins: Medical Research at Risk
Paige Winfield Cunningham | Politico
January 16, 2013

Sequestering Science
Michael D. Purugganan | Huffington Post
January 16, 2013

Is the NIH Funding Model Efficient?

Money and Science: To He that Hath
The Economist
December 8th, 2012
This analysis is based on the publication and funding record of the most highly cited biomedical papers and concluded that NIH may not support the best researchers. The link to the original article, in Nature, is provided below.

Research grants: Conform and be funded
Joshua M. Nicholson & John P.A. Ioannidis | Nature
December 5, 2012
Tag line: Too many US authors of the most innovative and influential papers in the life sciences do not receive NIH funding.

And, perhaps related to the above, NIH is considering anonymity for grant applicants:

NIH Considers Anonymity for Grant Applicants
Paul Basken | The Chronicle of Higher Education
December 10, 2012

And, be careful about unattributed text. Some federal agencies are using software to detect unattributed copying in research proposals. See below.

Plagiarism in Grant Proposals
Karen M. Markin | The Chronicle of Higher Education
December 10, 2012

Never Mind: Continuing Resolution negates riders to bills

The House (September 13) and the Senate (September 22) passed the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution (CR) that will fund the agencies and programs of the Federal government until March 27, 2013.

This means that all the riders to bills that abolished programs, some of which had a serious impact on social scientists have been negated. This includes the elimination of funding for: the American Community Survey (ACS), the political science program at NSF, and economics research at NIH.

The CR includes an across-the-board increase of 0.6 percent above FY 2012.

For further details, here’s the full 158 page text.

Text drawn from an APDU Data Update, September 27, 2012

Under Threat: Sequestration’s Impact on Nondefense Jobs and Services

Funding for non-defensse discretionary (NDD) programs will be slashed by 8.4 percent, if Congress does not deal with sequestration during the “lame duck” session of Congress.

The following report provides the details of the impact on jobs and services:

Under Threat: Sequestration’s Impact on Nondefense Jobs and Services
Senator Tom Harkin | Chair, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on . . .
July 25, 2012

This information & links comes from the Office of Government and Public Affairs, Poulation Association of America/Association of Population Centers.

The University of Michigan also has a helpful website:

Impact of Budget Control Act of 2011

Towards the bottom of the website are reports specific to NIH, CDC, and NSF.

First, the House prohibited funding for Political Science research; now it’s Economics

The House appropriations bill for Labor, Health & Human Services & Education attempts to eviscerate The Affordable Care Act by snuffing out NIH funding for health economics research. The scientific community reacts in the posts/tweets below:

NEWS ALERT: First, the House prohibited funding for Political Science research; now it’s Economics

The dismal science gets dismal news from the 2013 Labor, Health & Human Services & Education Appropriations bill

National Organizations and Universities Oppose NIH Economic Research Ban
Consortium of Social Science Associations
July 30, 2012

Panel Votes to End Prevention Fund, Cut Economic Studies, Freeze NIH
Jocelyn Kaiser | Science
July 2012

Last week, a House of Representatives panel passed a 2013 spending bill that would freeze the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), impose narrowly targeted cuts and restrictions on agencies that pay for science and health care analysis, and potentially strip $787 million from the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The draft bill, reflecting hostility to the Administration’s 2010 health care law and a desire to trim the Department of Health and Human Services, would wipe out HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a backer of evidence-based medicine. It would also bar NIH from funding about $200 million in economics studies.

In the end, this may all be resolved by a continuing resolution, which will extend funding for six months beyond Oct 1. This would delay final votes and compromises on these controversial appropriations bills.

House appropriations bill targets health economics and evidence-based medicine
Jocelyn Kaiser | ScienceInsider
July 18, 2012
First paragraph says it all:

A flat budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) isn’t the only unpleasant surprise for research advocates in a House of Representatives spending bill released yesterday. The draft bill, which reflects Republicans’ desire to undo the 2010 health care law and trim the Department of Health and Human Services, would wipe out HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the main supporter of evidence-based medicine. The bill also bars NIH from funding economics studies.

Death of Evidence: Canadians protesting cuts in science funding and programs

This is the press coverage for the “Death of Evidence” movement in Canada – mostly Carleton University scientists

Death of Evidence

The Death of Evidence Website
No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy

Feds mount systematic, deliberate campaign to reduce role of scientific evidence in decision-making
Diane Orihel, Scott Findlay | Hill Times
July 23, 2012

Death of evidence: Changes to Canadian science raise questions that the government must answer
Op-ed | Nature
July 19, 2012

Changes to Canadian science raise questions that the government must answer
Editorial | Nature
July 18, 2012

‘The Death of Evidence’ in Canada: Scientists’ Own Words
Katie Gibbs, Adam Houben, Arne Mooers, Vance L. Trudeau and Diane Orihel | The Tyee
July 16, 2012

This is a compressed compilation of the speeches that various scientists gave at the ‘Death of Evidence’ protest. Or to quote the tag-line for this article: “(D)ata distorted for ‘propaganda’ and other complaints against the Harper government made at last week’s Ottawa rally.

The day the earth moved in Ottawa
Michael Harris | iPolitics
July 12, 2012

Canada’s budget cuts imperil important environmental research area
Public Radio International []
July 12, 2012
includes audio interview & story

Scientists march on Parliament Hill to protest research cuts
Terry Pedwell | The Canadian Press []
July 10, 2012

Canada’s PM Stephen Harper faces revolt by scientists
Suzanne Goldenberg | The Guardian
July 9, 2012

Stop picking on the social sciences

Most of these article and blog entries are related to Jeff Flake’s amendment to a House appropriations bill, which stripped funding for Political Science from NSF. The Senate should be acting on the appropriations bill that funds NSF in the next few weeks.

Stop bullying the ‘soft’ sciences
Timothy Wilson | Los Angeles Times
July 13, 2012

Congress should cut funding for political science research
Charles Lane | The Washington Post
June 4, 2012

Political Science Serving the Public Interest
Nolan McCarty | The Monkey Cage
May 30, 2012

How Reliable are the Social Sciences?
Gary Gutting | The New York Times
May 17, 2012